Apple’s search engine is Spotlight and it’s looking more like Google

Spotlight search in the iOS and iPadOS 15 betas have gained rich results, and web images search results. Apple's Spotlight is poised to take market share away from Google Search because searches bypass Google's search engine entirely.

Apple Spotlight search that says "google who?"

In August 2020, Coywolf News reported that Apple was showing signs it may soon launch a search engine. Two months later, speculation of an Apple search engine emerged again as the Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against Google.

At the time, I suggested that an Apple search engine could be so tightly integrated into the operating system and native apps that Spotlight searches could slowly steal away queries that would have otherwise been made on Google. A year later, it has become clear to me that Spotlight is Apple’s search engine, and it’s well-positioned to start taking market share and ad revenue away from Google Search.

Spotlight represents a true universal search tool that is perfectly integrated with the operating system. It’s similar to Android and the Windows search box, except that Apple doesn’t force it into view as Google and Microsoft do. Instead, the user swipes down from the middle of the screen to make it appear on iOS and iPadOS or clicks on a menu bar icon or types a keyboard shortcut (-Space bar) on macOS.

Spotlight has primarily been used to display local results, like contacts, files, and apps. However, over time it has evolved to include more and more web results. Now, as Juli Clover, Senior Editor at MacRumors discovered, Spotlight in iOS and iPadOS 15 beta has gained rich results and web images search results that are similar to Google’s search results.

iPadOS 15 beta Spotlight screenshots
Movie rich results and image search results in iPadOS 15 beta

The direct mimicking of Google’s search results in Spotlight shows that Apple has essentially created a direct competitor against Google Search. And akin to Neeva, it is ad-free, private, and provides personal results for local and cloud-based files.

If Apple can provide a better experience than Google Search, and users change their search behavior to prefer using Spotlight, it could result in a significant reduction of searches on Google in the future.

The new Spotlight features are expected to launch with iOS 15 and macOS 12 (Monterey) in Fall 2021.

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Jon is the founder of Coywolf and the EIC and the primary author reporting for Coywolf News. He is an industry veteran with over 25 years of digital marketing and internet technologies experience. Follow @henshaw